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How to Improve User Experience Using Path to Purchase

Josh Walsh headshot
Josh Walsh

Each consumer has their own unique customer journey when they buy from your online catalog. Similarly, there are paths of abandonment, where potential customers leave without purchasing.

Through analysis of metrics around these customer journeys, certain patterns emerge, which give us a Path to Purchase Map of best practices to implement in our own online catalogs. This gives us the greatest odds of success for ecommerce conversion, while mitigating the risks of abandoned shopping carts.

Understanding the Customer Journey

When purchasing from your online catalog, our consumer generally goes through the following phases:

  1. Awareness: Through research and strategy, we identify who our target consumer is and how to reach them. Using marketing and sales techniques, we attract them to our online product catalog.
  2. Consideration: Once consumers are aware of your company, they will start to explore the products and services you have to offer. At this stage they aren’t looking to make a purchase, rather to decide if your company offers anything of value to them.
  3. Conversion: This is the critical purchasing moment. Your consumer has come to shop with you in order to solve a particular problem. They will be comparing your products against each other, and the competition, and deciding which product to purchase.
  4. Raving Fans: After the consumer purchases, we have the opportunity to turn them into loyal brand advocates. Further, we encourage them to advocate for your products with their friends and family, to drive referral business your way.

How To Improve Your Path to Purchase

Each of these stages of the consumers path to purchase provides an opportunity to audit the performance of your catalog against this benchmark.

The first thing you should do is identify the key performance indicators (KPI’s) for your overall journey, for each of the four stages above, and for each of the bolded sub-section within each stage.

Following that, you should gather the objective results from your analytics to identify your true performance against these KPI’s.

Your last step is to assemble research from other online catalogs in your industry to get an idea for how they perform against these same KPI’s. At that point, you’ll start to get an idea for how you stack up compared to your competitors. Using these newfound insights, you’ll have confidence to double down on your strengths and new projects to work on.

The Refinery offers a free Path to Purchase Analysis service to get these results in just a few days.

Path to Purchase Variations

While the customers path to purchase will vary from company to company, we find that there are three business models that generally follow these variations when it comes to online catalogs.

Direct Ecommerce

Through your online store you sell products directly to your customers. In this variation, consumers are largely self-service, and so automation and thorough help content is key.

Consumer Informer

We often refer to this as “buy local.” In this case, you sell your products through traditional big box retailers, or online marketplaces like or While you don’t handle the purchase transaction, you are a prominent influencer in the buying decision.

In this case, you’ll especially want to pay attention in the awareness and consideration stages, where your influence is most needed.

Made to Order

In this model, every customer is a special case. This is typically a larger investment, and customers will have individual needs that need personalized attention. In this case, the conversion stage is handled by a sales representative who will take the time to guide them through the purchasing process.

It can be hard to get the customer to agree to talk with a sales rep, so be prepared with lots of content on the website to build trust, answer questions, and provide encouragement.

How to Get Help

The Refinery provides analysis and execution of all projects related to your Path to Purchase, including strategy, design and technical implementation.

Already have an agency? No problem, we play nicely in the sandbox with other agencies too.

This post was last updated on: Feb 15, 2021.